Woodchuck Stew

I write a blog on beauty, an exercise that brings an air of transcendence to my life. In this endeavor, I try to be fair and write about art, literature, music, sports, acts of courage, acts of charity, and nature. Today, I grit my teeth and will try to be tolerant about a four legged creature that raids our garden. This resident groundhog has chewed off green bean leaves and feasted on broccoli and cabbage plants. It is not fair. I diligently till the soil, plant the seeds, weed, and keep it watered. This takes many weeks. Mr. Groundhog emerges from his burrow and heads for our garden, filling up his chubby little jowls with our carefully tended vegetables. In the interest of forgiveness, I decided to put my grudge aside and find something good to write about this mammal. Here goes:

  • His eyes are full and bright.
  • He is a fast runner, especially when pursued by an aggravated gardener.
  • He has a short, bushy tail that acts as a tripod. He does look cute sitting on his haunches surveying our garden, deciding upon his next meal.
  • He makes short, grunting sounds of contentment when eating-glad he’s enjoying himself.
  • Babies are called chucklings.
  • He can whistle-a high, shrill, birdlike sound resembling music.
  • He is a skilled engineer and builds a network of tunnels underground, including an excrement room, thus gaining him points for cleanliness.
  • The Joy of Cooking reports that woodchuck stew is quite tasty. The author and cook extraordinaire, Irma Bombauer, instructs us to field–dress it, hang the unfortunate victim for 48 hours, skin it like a rabbit, soak it overnight in salted water, and wipe dry. Be sure to remove the 7 to 9 kernel-like glands on his forelegs. Cook like any recipe for rabbit or chicken. I am sure that you would surprise dinner guests when you reveal the secret ingredient.

I was going to be a wise guy and end the post with that recipe. However, I stumbled across an anecdote that actually softened my hard heart toward this voracious nemesis. My source is the late Anna Botsford Comstock, founder and first head of the Department of Nature Study at Cornell University.  She states that there are plenty of reports that woodchucks like music. One professor at Wellesley College, a Mr. Ingersoll, confirmed that premise. A woodchuck often was seen on the chapel lawn joining in morning song. I know that you are wondering if our furry friend was an alto or soprano. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he was definitely a “clear soprano.”

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